September 19, 2001

Dear Prospective Student:

We are teaching a freshman seminar, CS99S, titled "The Coming Revolution in Computer Architecture." In this seminar we will examine the forces shaping the high-level design and architecture of modern computer systems and how these forces are likely to lead to a major change to the von Neumann architecture that has dominated computing for the last 50 years.

In this seminar we will read a number of book chapters, articles, and papers that cover a variety of topics related to computer architecture, technology, and applications. You will be expected to read these papers and email a few questions about each reading to us before each class meeting. During the class sessions we will discuss these papers and relate them to the theme of the class. Once a week you will write a short (two page, double spaced) paper on a topic related to our class discussion.

To add a touch of reality to the seminar we will have an in-class laboratory component where you will get some hands-on experience with computer hardware - starting with transistors and working our way up to adders and state machines. Building and understanding these low-level functions helps greatly to demystify the magic that makes a computer run.

To get to know all of you well and to have an informal atmosphere to discuss computer architecture and related (and unrelated!) topics, we would like to have dinner in the dorms with the class once a week. We will also be hosting a barbecue for the class early in the quarter.

This class requires no prior knowledge of or experience with computers. To do well in this class you should be intelligent and articulate with an interest in computers. You need to be able to read and discuss papers and write up and discuss your ideas in a clear and concise manner.

We strongly encourage you to contact us if you are interested in taking this seminar. Please ask us any questions you may have and let us know why you want to join us in exploring this topic.

We are going to have a lot of fun with this topic this quarter. We may even come up with the architecture that will be at the core of the next revolution.

Bill Dally and John Owens

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